Food & Dining
180 Degree Farm provides organic food for Coweta
by Bradley Hartsell
When Mason Tyson was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in 2006 at just four years old - on his birthday, no less - his parents, Scott and Nicole, were simply devastated and left asking a lot of questions.
For one, how could such a young child develop this advanced stage of cancer? All parents ask this type of question when their child gets sick, but remarkably, Scott and Nicole Tyson were ones that actually sought out answers.
After Mason's initial surgery, doctors began outlining his future. Chemotherapy, naturally, was the next option. Chemo, doctors told the family, was going to weaken Mason and put him at risk for future issues such as kidney failure. But? They'd have more time with their little boy. He'd probably live to be 40, the Tysons were told.
Unsatisfied, the family opted against chemo and, amazingly, they didn't need it. After seeking second opinions, the family decided to wait and monitor the cancer. All the while, Tyson researched the question of ... ' Why?'
'I read case study after case study trying to find the link to Neuroblastoma. Over and over it kept coming back to pesticides,' said Scott Tyson.
The family immediately made a diet change, largely based on a paper written by Dr. Charles Benbrook. No more processed foods, no more sugars ('sugars feed cancer,' explained Tyson), no more vegetables that had grown in chemicals.
Tyson still seems moved talking about it. With a drastic but medically sound diet change, the cancer in Mason's lymph nodes calcified and sealed completely. Their son's cancer had healed and they attributed it all to one of the most basic elements of life: natural foods.
A month before the diagnosis, the Tysons bought a farm in Sharpsburg, intending to build on it and move from Fayette County. The cancer put those plans on hold, but then the Tysons looked at their near 15-acre farm with something else in mind: it would be an organic garden, a community-oriented garden to help those in need, due to sickness or otherwise.
Tyson had grown food his whole life. He says he was too poor to grow conventional gardens, so whether he knew it or not, he'd always grown 'organic.' Now, however, he was armed with the knowledge of 'nutritiously dense' fruits and vegetables, as well as grassfed meat.
'Whatever the plants eat, we ingest,' explained Tyson of conventionally- grown fruits and vegetables often bought in grocery stores. 'So we have to be very careful of what we eat.' Tyson says plants absorb those pesticides into their cell walls, so when consumers wash off vegetables after buying them, it's not really doing anything but making them wet.
In 2009, 180 Degree Farm opened with the creed 'grow, give, teach.' The farm's focus is on good soil. Tyson says the food they grow isn't ever an issue; they're merely the extension of the soil. So when they get bad batches, they know to look to the soil for solutions. And to be on top of every potential problem, the family has to be out in the farm every day.
Tyson works full-time but still works every night and weekend in the garden, toiling over almost every vegetable imaginable and the farm's grass-fed chickens, ducks, turkeys and sheep. His wife, Nicole, homeschools Mason, now age 11 and six years cancer-free, and Cameron, 15. They have daily chores, helping to do their part in the garden that has donated about 20,000 pounds of food this year, up from more than 13,000 the year before.
The 180 Degree Farm, a non-profit organization, donates primarily to churches, food banks and their CSA customers (community-supported agriculture). These customers buy shares of whatever the farm grows and come every Saturday for pick-ups. Tyson says around 80 percent of their customers are sick and looking for diet and life changes, hoping for the similar results as Mason found.
'In my opinion, 60-70 percent of diseases come from food,' said Tyson, who pointed to Autism and Type 2 diabetes being on the rise. He believes it's linked to America's recent past of convenience - fast food, junk snacks and sodas. 'Changing people's diets is going to take times. There's work to be done there. But the people who do switch see changes. Things like pancreatic cancer tends to go away when diet changes.'
The Tysons also teach classes in addition to growing their own food, educating and raising awareness to the dangers of conventional diets and the power of natural ones.
The family is attending the Weston Price Wise Traditions Conference Nov. 8 in Atlanta. Tyson said he relishes going to these events to further educate himself and bettering 180 Degree Farm.
'God is really opening the door for us and connecting us with people who need hear about this,' explained Tyson.
Even though the winter months are coming up, the Tysons are excited about November in particular. In addition to Weston Price, November is the farm's fundraising month. Looking for donations of all types, November becomes a time when the farm can slingshot past winter's harshness and right into growing season.
The farm has thrived off volunteers and donations throughout its four-year history. Tyson says colleges send students to volunteer for days at a time. This year, UGA sent 50 students to help and learn. It's the passion of those who pitch in that helps keep the the farm thriving, matching the passion the Tysons had of pitching in to the community that fueled the idea in the very beginning.
Scott Tyson calls it 'a labor of love.' When he's working every night and weekend with what saved his youngest child's life, how could he call it anything else?